*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

TV review: The Trick, and Impeachment: American crime story

29 October 2021

Alamy

The University of East Anglia climatic research unit, where Dr Phil Jones, the subject of The Trick (BBC1, Monday of last week), worked as a climate-change scientist

The University of East Anglia climatic research unit, where Dr Phil Jones, the subject of The Trick (BBC1, Monday of last week), worked as a climate-c...

DRAMAS about lost reputations dominated this week’s television. In The Trick (BBC1, Monday of last week), Jason Watkins played Dr Phil Jones, the climate-change scientist whose credibility was challenged in 2009 through hacked emails. And, as The Trick went to great pains to point out, it was not just Dr Jones’s work that was in jeopardy, but belief in climate change, and, by extension, the future of mankind.

Despite the salience of its subject, and the thoroughbred performances of Watkins, and Victoria Hamilton as Ruth Jones, the scientist’s wife, the drama was immobilised by leaden dialogue. And chopping the timeframe with “3 months earlier” captions added no narrative tension, because everything looked the same audio-visual sludge. This was especially true of the final scene, set in the present, where the only clue that more than a decade had elapsed since the main action was a stuck-on receding hairline for Watkins and a re-usable coffee-cup prop.

Impeachment: American crime story (BBC2, Tuesday of last week) had many of the same ingredients as The Trick: a true story about a publicly shamed character, and a narrative that circled around the 1998 revelation of President Clinton’s relationship with the 22-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky. But the attention to period detail was immaculate, from pagers and payphones to electronic music blasting out in aerobics classes. Beanie Feldstein imbues Lewinsky with naïvety, impulsivity, and the entitlement of a privileged upbringing. And Sarah Paulson’s Linda Tripp is a swirling mix of spite and menacing physicality.

Paulson’s portrayal also elicited sympathy. Worried about her weight, Tripp blends Slim Fast for breakfast for her 5.30-a.m. start at the West Wing. In her own mind she is a White House linchpin, a delusion excruciatingly dispelled in job interview, where her career-highlight name-dropping is met with blank looks. Tripp’s turning-point workplace humiliation is being told by the well-connected volunteer who takes her job: “The President has no idea who you are.” Enraged, Tripp charges towards her usurper, spitting in her face “I will get you for this.”

As we have known from the pre-credits sequence, the colleague whom Tripp goes on to get is Lewinsky, but this knowledge makes the handling of the narrative by the series even more enjoyable. Instead of centring on a libidinous president, Impeachment tilts the axis of the story to an overlooked, mid-life employee seeking what she believes is her due, and the guileless young woman who crosses her path.

Impeachment’s ability to bring to life the wider context of the Clinton era, and the potential for Clinton’s personal life to be used as a political weapon, is what sets it apart from other dramas “based on real life”. And its telling depiction of work and power provides plentiful insights into real life as experienced by working adults the world over.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

 

Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available

 

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available

 

 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)